© 2024 KSUT Public Radio
NPR News and Music Discovery for the Four Corners
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Presidential primary ballots are headed to Colorado voters. Here’s what to know

A ballot drop-off box is seen on Nov. 7, 2023, at the Windsor Gardens Community Center in Denver.
Olivia Sun, The Colorado Sun via Report for America
A ballot drop-off box is seen on Nov. 7, 2023, at the Windsor Gardens Community Center in Denver.

The Colorado Sun originally published this story at 4 a.m. on February 12, 2024. It was updated at 10:32 a.m. on February 16, 2024.

Ballots are on their way to voters for Colorado’s March 5 presidential primary, listing options from former Republican President Donald Trump on the GOP ballot to “noncommitted delegate” on the Democratic ballot.

But votes for some of the candidates listed might not count.

Four of the seven Republican presidential candidates on Colorado’s Republican presidential primary ballot have ended their campaigns, though none have notified the Secretary of State’s Office they are no longer in Colorado’s contest.

And the U.S. Supreme Court could rule that Trump isn’t eligible to be on Colorado’s ballot because of his attempts to overturn the 2020 election. The court heard arguments in that case last week, and the justices appeared inclined to let Trump stay on the ballot.

Meanwhile, those who want to participate in political party caucuses next month ahead of the state’s June 25 state and congressional primaries face voter registration deadlines this week.

Here are some basics about the presidential primary and the caucuses:

Who can vote in the primary election and how

Voters registered as Democrats, Republicans or unaffiliated will receive presidential primary ballots in the mail.

Registered Democrats will receive Democratic presidential primary ballots and registered Republicans will receive Republican presidential primary ballots.

Unaffiliated voters will receive both ballots, but may fill out and return only one. Returning votes on both ballots will cause both to be disqualified.

Voters may return their ballots in the mail or in person at dropboxes in their county. Most voters use the drop boxes. The Secretary of State’s Office will release those locations this week.

People may also vote in person at county vote centers Feb. 26 through March 5.

Ballots must be received by county clerks or in-person voters must be in line by 7 p.m. Tuesday, March 5, for their votes to be counted.

Votes for withdrawn candidates won’t count

These Republican candidates have announced their exits from the GOP primary:

  • Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy
  • Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
  • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie

But none has asked to be removed from contention in Colorado, and their votes will be counted unless they make that formal request before Election Day on March 5, known as Super Tuesday since a wave of states will have presidential primary elections that day.
The Colorado GOP received a total of $220,000 in ballot-access fees from presidential candidates since September.

Eight Democratic candidates, including President Joe Biden, are on the Democratic presidential ballot in Colorado. Democrats may also vote for the “noncommitted delegate,” which is basically a “none of the above” option.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Shad Murib said the option was “provide as many choices as we can to our voters.”

If 15% or more of Democratic voters select “noncommitted delegate,” that’s how some of Colorado’s convention delegates would cast their ballot on the first round of voting.

For example, in 2020, votes and, hence, Democratic delegates for former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg were reapportioned to other candidates after Bloomberg dropped out. (U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, won Colorado’s Democratic presidential primary in 2020.)

The Trump factor

It’s unknown when the U.S. Supreme Court will rule in the Colorado lawsuit seeking to keep Trump off the ballot. If the court issues a ruling disqualifying Trump before the primary, it would mean votes for him wouldn’t be counted.

If that happens, Colorado GOP Chair Dave Williams said the GOP plans to award delegates via the caucus and assembly process.

“That’s sort of our backup plan,” he said, though he acknowledged it could be challenged.

But if a disqualifying ruling comes after March 5, the votes would be counted. And Trump would be banned from the general election ballot in Colorado.

Primary votes = convention delegates for candidates

Voters approved holding presidential primaries with unaffiliated voter participation in 2016. Before 2020, primaries were held in 1992, 1996 and 2000. In other years, convention delegates were selected through the caucus process.

The idea behind the primaries is to allocate delegates for presidential candidates to national party conventions, replacing the caucus system that has limited participation. Both parties allocate delegates proportionally based on primary results.

Colorado Democrats will have 87 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in Chicago in August. Of those, 47 will be selected at congressional assemblies, which will be held virtually on April 11. Nine party-leader and elected official delegates and 16 at-large delegates will be selected at the virtual state assembly April 13. Colorado’s two U.S. senators, five U.S. House members, Gov. Jared Polis and five party officials will also serve as convention delegates.

Colorado Republicans have 37 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee in mid-July. Ten of those delegates will be elected at the state assembly in Pueblo on April 6, while three each will be elected by eight congressional assemblies.

Caucuses follow the presidential primary election

Democratic and Republican caucus and assemblies where people gather with friends and neighbors to nominate candidates from the county to congressional levels to be on the state’s June 25 primary ballot. And they also elect delegates to the national convention to cast presidential votes based on the primary results.

Those caucuses are set for March 5-9. But to participate, voters must be party members with registration deadlines this week.

“Caucuses and assemblies are important because it is a real opportunity for grassroots Democrats to come together,” said Democratic Party chair Murib. “Not only to help pick great candidates for the primary ballot, but also have the important conversations platform and start building community and capacity to have a great year.”

Williams said that while the GOP presidential primary will determine a winner and possibly runners-up, the caucus and assembly process will determine the delegates for those candidates. And it will help nominate other candidates for the June 25 primary.

“If you’re supporting a congressional candidate or a state legislative candidate, then you have the ability to help them access the ballot at a cheaper cost and in a more grassroots way,” he said.

Caucus turnout is considerably lower than the presidential primary. In 2020, about 960,000 Democrats and 682,000 Republicansparticipated in the presidential primary. Only about 12,000 Democrats participated in the 2020 caucuses.

How do I participate in the caucuses?

To participate in Democratic or Republican party caucuses you must be registered at least 22 days in advance.

For caucuses taking place March 5, that means Feb. 12 is the deadline to register. Feb. 16 is the deadline for caucuses that take place on March 9.

GoVoteColorado.com is the place to register or to change your party affiliation or other registration information.

Read on for more information.

What are caucuses and what are they for?

Political party caucuses are the first step in nominating candidates for the ballot (except for president) and to the national party conventions this summer.

Political party caucuses are one of two ways for candidates to make Colorado’s June 25 primary ballot. Candidates may also gather signatures and petition on to the ballot.

The caucus gatherings are relatively small precinct-level events for party members, though smaller counties may have multiple caucuses at a single location.

Democrats detail the process on their website.

Typically, caucus participants declare their allegiance to a particular candidate at the highest level through a preference poll. This year the only statewide contest is for the at-large University of Colorado board of regents.

In 2020, for instance, Democratic caucus-goers weighed in on a U.S. Senate contest between former Gov. John Hickenlooper and former state House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

Although Romanoff won the caucus voting, Hickenlooper won the June primary and went on to defeat GOP Sen. Cory Gardner in the general election.

Where is my caucus?

The Colorado Democratic Party has a web page with a list of county caucus and assembly dates. Many Republican county-level parties list caucus information on their individual websites.

Republicans may find the location of their caucuses and pre-register by entering their address and zip code at this site.

What happens after the caucus?

Precinct caucuses are just the beginning of an assembly process that concludes in mid-April.

They elect delegates to county assemblies, which elect delegates to legislative, congressional and state assemblies. County assemblies must be held by March 30.

Democrats will hold congressional assemblies virtually on April 11 and the state assembly virtually on April 13. Republicans will hold congressional assemblies on April 5 and the statewide assembly April 6 in Pueblo.

Each of those assemblies nominate candidates to appear on their respective primary ballots, with 30% of the delegate vote required to make the ballot. But candidates who gather enough valid petition signatures will also make the June 25 ballot.

The primary ballot will be set by the end of April.

Related Stories